Saturday, 23 February 2013

Blackstar Series One v Egnater Renegade 65....

From my other Egnater post this quote made me laugh....
 "Now you can go to Guitar Center and get a $35 piece of Korean crap with distortion."
It sums up the Egnater forum very well, it has it all Guitar Center, Korean "I'll add China" and crap....
I'm sure the Egnater forum is exactly the same as most forums, full of people either loving or hating. The Egnater forum is split into two camps, the hand wired made in the US camp and the made in China camp. The made in China camp does seem to have all the problems and these problems can be split between just a bad tube easy fix type and the more terminal type. The hand wired camp beleive that the China amps have cheapened the Egnater brand and are only too happy to say so, "your problem is you've bought a shit amp" and "you can't polish a terd". It's really a difference between hand wired and printed circuit board amps, one being better than the other, but some of the things you can desgin into a circuit board amp you just can't get a hand wired amp to do. so in the end it all comes down to quality of manufacture and of quality control, a good sounding amp is a good amp. So are the made in China Egnater amps good amps.....

I can't compair US v China made amps as I don't have as US made Egnater "you can't get the US Modular in the UK" but I can compair two far east made amps....

Blackstar Series One v Egnater Renegade 65.
I've had both amps for about 18 months and have given them both a fair amount of abuse.....The Blackstar is made in Korea while the Egnater Renegade is made in China.

The looks department.... the BS is a very cool looking amp, all Black on Black and very Rock. The ER looks a tad retro. But when compaired to a US made Egnater, both look the same, same matt black paint, same font, same knobs in cream and the same black and tan tolex type of covering, it's an Egnater, it's how all Egnaters look. A Blackstar win I think.

Construction....again the Blackstar has it, beefier wooden case and the chassis is made of heavier gauge steel. Both amps have been drop tested.....the Blackstar had been back to Northampton and repaired 3 times and on one occastion came back like this.
I had wrapped the amp very well in its box with it's foam supports then wrapped the box in thick polyurathain. Blackstar sent it back just in it's box with bubble wrap for padding....the bubble wrap didn't work did it.
The BS came through the drop test very well, only one of it's rather large transformers bending it's retaining braket. A word about the BS transformers, they are massive, heavy and both on the same side of the amp making carring the amp a real pain in the arse....I'll say that again because carring it is a major pain in the arse. Blackstar loose a point.

The Egnater, well erm....in it's defense, it had come all the way from China and it looked as if it's chassis bolts had come loose and after several bumps the wieght of the transformer bent the chassis.
 Not good. This first amp I had replaced, it did work perfectly for the two weeks it took to get a replacement. Both amps get a point taken away.
The internals....both amps are very simaller. The BS is very clean, the ER looks a tad messy with it's thick hook up wires....
 I prefer the big thick hook up wires in the ER rather than the thin things that would'nt look out of place in a PC in the BS. Egnater Win....

The Rears....again both amps are pretty much the same on the back with recording outputs, two speaker outputs and FX Loops. The BS has a +4-10db pad switch, the E has it's loop pad switch internally but it's loop is tube buffered. The BS has MIDI for control of other MIDI equipment. The ER has a very usfull tube biasing control so you can bias new power tubes yourself. I call it a draw....

The two channels in the ER are exactly the same with gain, bass, middle, treble, tube mix, channel volume and both with toggle switches for 65watt/18watt, tight/deep, bright/normal. Channel 1 is clean and Channel 2 is the dirty. Both channels have independent reverb controls. The power section has density and presence controls and two master volumes that are foot-switch controllable. The ER has the better F/S only let down by a wired on cable that at some point will break, the amp does need the F/S to work at its best. The F/S has switches on the effects, reverb and Main 2 volume that lets you have them set on CH1 or CH2 or Both.
The BS is a simpler affair, channel 1 just has gain, volume and the two mode switches, bright clean and warm clean. Channel 2 is the overdrive channel with crunch and super crunch modes. It gets a full EQ section of bass, middle, treble and the ISF tube mix knob. The master section has resonance, presence, volume and finishes with the power DPR knob. I'll sit on the fence and say both amps get a point.

The Sounds....both amps try to produce British and US tones but go about it in different ways. The BS uses four EL34 and some very clever EQing and Power Tube manipulation? to do it's thang while the ER uses two 6L6 tubes to do the US tones and two EL34 to do the British thing, very simple....just like having two amps in one box.
The BS sounds awesome, it's four modes are well dialed in, the Super Crunch is killer, the amp is almost plug and play. You don't get much control, it just does what it does. It will never give you a duff tone and for me that's the big problem, after awhile it gets a bit boring. When I first got my Marshall JMP-1 midi pre amp I paired it with a Marshall Valvestate power amp....I went through three of them and they all died the same horrible deaths....after no more than twenty minutes of playing they would go up in a puff of smoke and through the grill in the amp housing you could see a black block of plastic with a hole in it. The processor/integrated circuit or what ever it was that was doing all the clever valvestate stuff had got too hot and blown it's own brains out.
Could it be the same sort of thing under that big heat sink in the BS. Is the BS a modelling amp at it's heart.....Don't get me wrong it's a great sounding amp but the ER is an amp you can keep tweeking and it's tone just keeps getting better. It's an amp you need to learn how to get the best from, but when you know where the sounds are it's really easy to dial them back in. I have never had an amp that sounds as good loud as it does quiet. The BS has it's "Dynamic Power Reduction" and it works very well but it still lacks somthing so you do end up turning the amp back up for some punch. With the ER you turn down the volume and balance the controls to dial in the sweet spot, kick in it's second master volume "Main 2" that adds sustain and grit. It's like adding another gain stage that adds another layer of tubey goodness. On the 6L6 side I keep the CH1 clean and then add the Main 2 volume with CH2 to push the amp into creamyness. On the EL34 side I use the Main 2 volume to dirty up CH1 but than switch Main 2 off on CH2 and turn up its channel volume to add the dirt for more face ripping Marshall tones at any volume.
The ER is an amp that will frustrate at first with all the switches but then will grow with you. The BS is the perfect first valve amp, easy to use but an amp that you will end up selling for something better. Both amps are great sounding and that shows that an amp does not have to be made in the US/UK or be hand wired to be awesome. Of the two I liked the ER best, the BS has been traded in now, something I don't usually do. "I have a room full of stuff". I felt that as good as the BS was I had better sounding Marshall amps already and that for me the ER had more tone and it has now become my main amp.
I have a craving for a DR Z, either a Maz or a Z Wreck. If someone said they would swop their Maz for my Egnater Renegade, without thinking I would say NO, if they then said a Z Wreck for my Renegade I would snatch their hand off and be in the car with it and up the road before they knew what they had done. But....as good as the Dr Z's are, the Z Wreck is too loud and don't do Marshall tones, so one of my Marshalls would come back into play and if I'm being honest the DeVille would come down stairs and before too long I'd have three amps in my rubber wall music room. The volumes would again become a social issue and I'd have to buy another Renegade....it is that good an amp.


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